Name: Álvaro Vadillo Cifuentes
POB: Puerto Real, Cádiz
Position: RW, LW, CAM
Club: Real Betis
Friends and club members have apparently nicknamed him Cristiano and it’s not just because of the slick hair and chiselled cheekbones, the kid from Cádiz is showing all the confidence, skill and charisma the Portuguese emits on the pitch.
As happens in various regions of Spain the more powerful teams tend to poach from the academies of their less illustrious neighbours; Athletic stop by at La Real, Barcelona dip into Espanyol and the list goes on. Real Betis did exactly that for Vadillo as they swooped by Loreto (he previously had several years at CD La Salle) when the player was only 11 before transferring him into their own academy.
During that time Vadillo’s performances at various tournaments in the Andalucían region achieved huge praise from those inside his contracted club and predictably those from others. Such was the prestige growing about the youngster who could operate on both wings that Betis promoted him to age groups above his level. The national team then came calling as he was named in the U-16 and U-17 squads at the time.
During that time Vadillo’s father took him to and from training at the same time missing out on precious working hours all to make sure his son made training. The player admits the first years were hard before taking up residency at the club, as things became normal. Since the turn of 2011 Vadillo debuted, then featured regularly in the B team at Real Betis – still while only 16. The scouts were still present, and with it came perhaps a defining moment in his career. During the summer Fiorentina came calling and offered Vadillo and his family who were acting as advisors at the time, €1.6m over 5 years. At one point it looked like he was going, before an apparent intervention by Betis Coach Pepe Mel convinced the teenager to stay at home and develop in Seville. He did exactly that, by signing a new deal until 2016 with Los Verdiblancos. Just before the deal became signed, Vadillo claimed there was an under the radar offer from Real Madrid too.
As a player Vadillo has operated usually in the wide areas of a 4-2-3-1, but he’s also played as the central player on the most advanced tip of the 3. Though happy to play there, he’s admitted to feeling at home in the wide areas just like his present day idols; Joaquín and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Joaquín adoration is an intriguing one given that the Málaga man is too from Cadiz, played at Real Betis and is of course a direct winger. In the green and white parts of Seville claims are on Vadillo to be “El Nuevo Joaquín” but that’s a claim the teenager dismisses instantly calling it “nonsense”.
The case of Vadillo’s star being in the ascendancy has never wavered, and that was the case once again when Mel suggested he’d feature for the first team for the 2011/2012 campaign. Though he took sometime adjusting to the physical demands of first team training as he was bounced around by the likes of Iriney and Nacho, the youngster soon became comfortable in such prestigious surroundings.
On the 12th of September, a day of celebration for all Betico’s as it marked the 104th anniversary of the great club, a 16 year old Vadillo made his debut for the first team against Andalucían neighbours Granada. He became the youngest player to debut for Real Betis in their top flight history, and though there were a few signs of nerves he broke out what might soon become his trademark – a direct drive of pace and skill at the full back.
As a player Vadillo is still incredibly raw, he doesn’t harbour any real tactical intelligence, relies heavily on his left foot nor has good crossing ability. What we must remember is that he’s still only 17 and is advanced even for that age. What he does have is masses of searing pace, close control and flair. Although he likes a step over perhaps a little too much he’s more often than not at his best when playing direct, running at his marker with a combination of speed and skill causing chaos in the backline. He can go the other way too, cutting outside before reversing the ball back into the danger area, or taking the chance on himself. Whereas many go for finesse, like his idols Ronaldo and Joaquín he seems to favour the more powerful, direct approach and with it harnesses huge confidence in his own ability.
The decision taken by Betis to alternate Vadillo, and several other youngsters, between the main and ‘B’ teams this season is a sensible one that allows the players to learn at a steady rate. If Vadillo’s career at youth level is anything to go by though, he’s not afraid to take that extra step further.